May Day: An Immigrant Spring in Washington State

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OneAmerica members and allies marched across Washington State on May Day: Photos and report-back

Communities across Washington State marched for immigration reform and workers’ rights on May Day, with hundreds of people filling the streets on both sides of the Cascades. In Seattle, thousands more marched in the annual demonstration organized by El Comité Pro-Reforma Migratoria y Justicia Social and the May 1st Action Coalition, representing a broad spectrum of labor, cultural, and social movement organizations. See OneAmerica's photos from actions across the state on Flickr and Facebook.

May Day Wenatchee

Around 500 people attended a march in Wenatchee, organized by the local community organization Grupo CAFÉ along with OneAmerica and SEIU. "The day was just perfect," said Alma Chacón of Grupo CAFÉ, "It was great, peaceful, fun, and exciting. Many people came out wearing green, symbolizing a green light for immigration reform." Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz and East Wenatchee Mayor Steve Lacy both addressed a rally at Lincoln Park, expressing support for immigration reform and their appreciation of Eastern Washington’s Latino and immigrant communities. Jorge Chacón led the crowd in a chant of "¡Si se pudo!"—We did it!—capturing a sense of momentum and confidence in the success of immigration reform.

May Day Wenatchee

More than a thousand people turned out in Yakima, with bystanders cheering on the chanting marchers. At a rally, local community members Elizabeth Lara, a DREAM Act advocate and student whose father was deported to Mexico, and Erendira Maya, whose husband was deported when their youngest child was one month old, spoke of the challenges they have faced under the current broken immigration system. Elizabeth and Erendira also shared their testimony on May 2nd in a meeting with Senator Patty Murray. Other speakers at the rally organized by the Yakima May 1st March Committee included Matt Mattson, Snoqualmie Tribal Administrator, who welcomed immigrant communities and stressed that all people are united as brothers and sisters in a relationship with Mother Earth.

May Day Spokane

In Spokane, Reverend Dr. Todd Eklof also emphasized the theme of unity as he addressed more than 200 May Day celebrants: "There is only one Earth, and one human family… And we all share one dream too—the dream to be free and the dream to belong." Rev. Eklof cited scripture and religious scholars to illustrate the common values of equality, hospitality, and solidarity shared by all the world’s major faiths. Other speakers included former U.S. Vice Consul in Mexico David Brookbank and Greg Cunninghan, Director of Refugee & Immigration Services for Catholic Charities of Spokane. The march was reported to be Spokane’s largest May Day activity since 2007. Organizer Lucia Vasquez told a local reporter that for her the issue of immigration is a personal one: "I have siblings and I have family members and I have friends at EWU and throughout the country that are undocumented." Lucia says that she was also thinking of Wenatchee’s Alma and Jorge Chacón during the event—now an activist with EWU M.E.Ch.A. and OneAmerica, she got her start with Grupo CAFÉ and received the organization’s scholarship in 2010.

May Day Walla Walla

400 more marched in Walla Walla, calling on Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers to support immigration reform. A full band accompanied a rally featuring speakers from SEIU, OneAmerica, and local residents.

May Day Vancouver

Vancouver also hosted a spirited rally, which pressured Congresswoman Jamie Herrera-Beutler to come out in support of comprehensive immigration reform. After a rally at Herrera-Beutler’s office, 250 people marched to Esther Short Park. There Vancouver’s Interim Police Chief Chris Sutter and Mayor Tim Leavitt both addressed the march. Sutter expressed his department’s commitment to serving immigrant communities, and Mayor Leavitt made an impassioned plea for Washington State’s Members of Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform: "We say to them: Look at our faces, and hear our voices. It’s time for the debate to stop… It’s time to stop the uncertainty."

May Day Vancouver

Vancouver resident Alejandra Silva Hernandez led the rally and shared her experience as a University of Washington student and Deferred Action recipient: "I didn’t know that I was undocumented until I was a Junior in at Skyview High School and started applying for college. I hadn’t talked about it with anyone." While Deferred Action has given Alejandra the opportunity to finish her undergraduate education, she hopes that comprehensive immigration reform will allow her to achieve more secure status and pursue her plans to become a doctor: "My dream is still to go to medical school, but you need to be a resident in order to apply. This whole process has been a transformation for me. I want it too badly to give up now."

May Day Mt. Vernon

150 people marched in Mount Vernon in the city’s first May Day rally in recent years. Local organizers hope to make the march an annual event, complementing the May 5 Farmworker Solidarity March that has been a tradition in the suburban agricultural community. Though the march was positive and festive, the signs carried by young marchers Monique and Maria underscored the seriousness of the day’s message: "ICE took my Dad. We miss him."

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